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Hire on Attitude – But How?

Wouldn’t it be great if candidates walked into your office with an “attitude score” marked on their foreheads? One to five and you give them a polite, ten-minute interview; six to ten and you actually get talking!1280165-thumbs_up

Unfortunately nobody’s invented that system yet, so employers are left to their own devices in determining attitude; “devices” that probably don’t include a psychology degree, so it is understandably an area that many struggle with.

Hiring entry-level recruits on attitude is a great policy where the skills can be trained – but how exactly do you judge that in the first place?

Define What you are Looking For

It starts with you defining exactly the profile of the person you are looking for in the role and within the company culture as a whole. Don’t just use gut instinct to hire – have a list of qualities you value highly and that will help you shape interview questions to identify these characteristics in candidates.

Cut Through the “Act”

It’s relatively easy to “fake” attitude for twenty or thirty minutes; AADA qualifications are not necessary – it just takes knowing what the right things to say are.

You should be looking for people who are natural and honest, though bear in mind that interviews can be stressful, so there may be a good reason that someone makes mistakes or is putting on an act – nerves! They are not necessarily trying to deceive you. Make sure you relax them with a bit of humour and a smile, so that the guard can come down before you get on to the serious stuff.

Another way to ensure you are getting to the real person is simply not to judge on one interview;  two or even three interviews will show that you are willing to spend time to find the right person, raising the profile of the position. Consider getting other trusted employees to meet the candidate too – this may uncover more about the person and reduce the “act” risk.

Ask the Right Questions

How do you find the right questions? How do you uncover the energy, motivation, creativity, enthusiasm, willingness to learn, level of care, honesty and commitment that most employers look for in a new recruit’s attitude?

Getting candidates talking is the key to judging attitude. If you do most of the talking then they can simply agree and you learn very little. You get a candidate to open up by asking open-ended questions, rather than closed ones; these cannot be answered with a simple word or two. Any questions starting with the below phrases should encourage them to talk:

  • Tell me about…
  • Give me an example of…
  • What were your experiences of…?
  • What did you learn from…?
  • Why did you leave…?
  • What do you see as…?
  • What’s your opinion of…?
  • How did you deal with..?

Many candidates will expect these questions and have answers ready, so be sure to ask follow up questions too:

  • Tell me more about…
  • Why do you think …?
  • Why did you choose that approach?

You can also question them about particular past experiences at work, which uncover more about the way they usually operate. For instance:

  • Tell me about a time at work when you felt differently to your co-workers about an issue
  • Give me an example of when you felt your standards fell below par – and what did you do about it?
  • What was your most stressful situation ever at work?
  • Give me an example of when a previous boss had unreasonable expectations of you

Role Play or Testing

Don’t discount using role-plays in interviews.  You could be a difficult customer or co-worker – being able to judge the candidate’s responses under pressure can help you see if they would be a good fit.

Another good strategy is to run psychometric testing to profile candidates more accurately than simple questioning reveals; however, unless they are administered and interpreted professionally they can create more problems than they solve.

Check References – Yes, Really!

If the candidate has a work history, check it. It’s amazing how many employers don’t find the time to do this, but if there are three references, check them all. If you have asked the right questions in the interview you may even be able to check specific stories that the candidate has related to you, to verify honesty.

Hiring based on attitude needn’t be the huge challenge that it’s often made out to be. The five tips above should help you start to design interview processes that get beyond the smoke-screens to reveal the real person sitting in front of you – so that you can make an informed decision about their suitability for the role and your company.

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